ATLANTIC (Ireland/Club/82mins)
Directed by Risteard O’Domhnaill. Starring Kevin Flannery, Jerry Early, Charlie Kane,
THE PLOT: Examining the current state of affairs when it comes to fishing the Atlantic, we visit three seafaring communities – in Newfoundland, Ireland and Norway – to chart the rise of big business and the near-collapse of local fishing industries. Over in Newfoundland, Charlie Kane is one of the few residents left in the small fishing village of Renews, after chronic over-fishing led to a 1992 moratorium on harvesting cod that was supposed to be in effect for two years but is still going strong 21 years later. In Ireland, Kevin Flannery, a former Sea Fisheries Protection Officer, reflects on Ireland’s joining of the EU in 1973, and the deal that gave the country farming subsidaries in return for the handing over of control of fishing in our waters. Today, the five main fishing ports in the country are dominated by French and Spanish trawlers, with Ireland’s fishermen being given access to just 4% of our own waters, even though we own 25% of the EU fishery waters. Off the coast of Castletownbere, for one local fisherman, checking just how many ships are off the coast on his computer, it’s a feeding frenzy out there – verging on “rape”.
In Norway, they refused to sign up to sign up the EU’s deal, deciding instead keeping their soverignty, and are now the world’s second largest exporter of fish, with an industry that’s worth €9b to their coastal economy every year. Ireland’s return is just 6% of this.
THE VERDICT: Having hit hard with his 2010 documentary The Pipe – charting a small Irish village going into battle with Corrib Gas – Risteard O’Domhnaill has bigger fish to fry in Atlantic, a stealthy, steady look at the fishing crisis that now stretches from the grand banks of Newfoundland to the west coast of Ireland, and on up to the frozen Norwegian artic.
The three ports that O’Domhnaill visits all tell a sad and angry tale, of big business taking over from centuries of tradition, squeezing out communities as profit-chasing again and again buckles the wheel. Where natural resources are stripped for short-term gains, creating serious long-term loss.
It makes for depressing viewing, of course, but Atlantic gets to the heart of the matter with a calm urgency, letting the beleagured and somewhat resigned people directly affected do the talking rather than rely on any headline spinning or edit-room exclamation marks.
Natural resources being swallowed up by big business is a familiar story all over the world today, but, it’s one that needs to be told. And Risteard O’Domhnaill lets his head rule over his heart here, delivering an intelligent, insightful and, ultimately, very moving documentary.

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Review by Paul Byrne

Review by Paul Byrne
4.0Incredibly moving
  • filmbuff2011

    Risteard O’Domhnaill’s follow-up to his provocative documentary The Pipe is no less ambitious and thought-provoking. Atlantic is an environmental documentary told from the perspectives of three fishing communities whose livelihoods have been disrupted and are under threat from the need for greed.

    In Newfoundland, a local fishing community has faded away and gone almost barren thanks to state intervention regarding fishing quotas and big oil rigs mining the local area for natural resources. In Norway, local fishermen contend with interference from oil and gas companies who are disrupting the ocean and its natural resources with sound waves intended to find those resources. On the west coast of Ireland, local fishermen have to contend with restrictive fishing practices and obeying the law. Meanwhile, foreign supertrawlers from Spain, Germany and other European countries drain the prime seas of the west coast of fish to unsustainable levels, while dumping thousands of small fish they don’t want or need…

    Skillfully narrated by Brendan Gleeson, crowd-funded Atlantic is a powerful indictment of current fishing practices as enforced by the Governments of the three countries featured. Fishing quotas are nothing new to Irish people, but the way that O’Domhnaill tells it hits home with a punch. This is illustrated late in the film, in which a fisherman ends up in court for having a salmon in his net. Dodgy fishing practices by the larger foreign boats is hinted at initially, but then given strong evidence later on. It’s the little guy that Governments go after, not the big money. Money talks, as the saying goes. Being part of the EU means that these foreign trawlers have the right to be there – but not all the time and not to the detriment of local Irish communities. They should certainly have smaller quotas, yet there’s genuine frustration here from fishermen with politicians who sign away rights in Brussels without really knowing the impact on the ground level.

    It’s not just the Irish story that really hits home. The stories from Newfoundland and Norway are equally urgent and speak of a dire need for change – if only there was a political will to do so. Norway seems to have made some headway on this, as it has a rich resource of oil and gas. The environmental impact of all this fishing and mining activity, whether legal or illegal, is worrying. As the film draws to a close, O’Domhnaill issues a stark reminder that the Atlantic Ocean is a resource that needs to be respected. Very true. One can only hope that the next Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine will take notice and do something. Another fine documentary from O’Domhnail that comes highly recommended. ****